It would be difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when the infamous “pivot to video” actually began, but a 2016 Facebook earnings call could certainly be cited as having thrown gasoline onto the fire. “I want to start by talking about our work around putting video first across our apps,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He went on to predict that, within five years, video would be the dominant form of content on the internet. By enabling this shift, Facebook was “taking steps to make it even easier for people to express themselves in richer ways.”
Sure enough, publishers began to notice that their Facebook video views were skyrocketing, and this also coincided with the industry-wide recognition that the Facebook-Google duopoly was running away with the digital ad market, vacuuming up nearly all the new ad dollars that were migrating online. Before, publishers assumed that they could claw back some of this market once they reached some as-yet-defined level of scale. But by the time Zuckerberg made those infamous proclamations about video, the publishing industry had resigned itself to the reality that no amount of scale would result in publishers outmaneuvering platforms with billions of users and self-service ad targeting platforms.